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Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1998 the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector has fallen from 4.5 million to 4.1 million. Over the same period, total UK employment has increased by around 500,000.
Manufacturing is an important sector of the economy, with output at near record levels. But as in other industrialised countries, there are fewer people employed in producing these manufactured goods than 20 years ago.
In a dynamic economy jobs are being created and lost all of the time. Where changes in the economy lead to job losses, and to upheavals in individuals' lives, help and support is available so they can find a new job as quickly as possiblewherever they live and whatever part of the economy they work in.
28. Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment the Government have made of the contribution the pensioners credit scheme will make to the income of pensioners in the United Kingdom. 
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Malcolm Wicks: We are committed to the principle of extending opportunity for all to everyone regardless of age, and tackling age discrimination in the workplace. A key element of this is the New Deal 50 plus which has already helped over 50,000 people move into work since its national launch in April 2000.
We are developing proposals to increase take up of the New Deal 50 plus training provision, and employer involvement in the programme, in the form of 3rd Age Apprenticeships. These will offer work-based training organised on a sectoral basis, making use of existing New Deal 50 plus funding arrangements, particularly the Training Grant.
The on-going Age Positive campaign is challenging workplace attitudes towards age, ensuring employers realise the benefits of employing an age diverse workforce. An extensive direct mailing initiative early in 2001 successfully targeted recruitment agencies, in addition to the Federation of Small Businesses.
Malcolm Wicks: Our welfare to work initiatives are helping people into work in all parts of the country. We have introduced Action Teams for Jobs which are providing tailored help to jobless people in the most employment deprived areas. Action Teams have already helped over 15,000 jobless people move into work.
The Merseyside Action Team, launched in October 2000, covered two areas of Merseyside: Wirral and St. Helens. We increased the number of Action Teams from 40 to 53 on 15 October 2001 and St. Helens now has its own Action Team which will focus even more closely on helping disadvantaged jobless people in the area move into work.
Malcolm Wicks: The current labour market position in Peterborough is strong. The claimant unemployment rate in September 2001 was 2.3 per cent., below the national average of 3.1 per cent. Total unemployment in the constituency has fallen by 40 per cent. in the last four
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years. Over the same period the number unemployed for one year or more has fallen by two thirds, while the number of 1824 year olds unemployed for six months or more is down by almost 75 per cent.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: In parallel with the introduction of Jobcentre Plus we a requiring new and repeat claimants to working age benefits to attend an interview with a Personal Adviser to ensure that they are aware of the support that is available to help them into work. Other than for claimants of Jobseekers Allowance, to whom the current rules continue to apply, there is no requirement on them to take any other steps to look for work.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since June of this year we have met with key employer organisations and many individual employers. Their input is central to the development of our employment policies and to ensuring that our employment programmes meet local labour market needs and employers' recruitment needs.
We have also created the National Employment Panel to ensure that employers, and other key customers, have a strong and permanent voice within the Department. The panel is an employer-led body that will provide independent advice on the design, delivery and performance of our welfare to work initiatives.
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taken by his Department to release funds to training providers following audit in the latest six-month period for which figures are available. 
Malcolm Wicks: Audits are carried out by the Department, as part of its normal commercial relationships with external providers. Departmental auditors are not empowered to withhold funds which are payable to providers. They will advise on any irregularities that may have been identified during the course of the audit. Contracting teams will decide on any appropriate action in these circumstances.
The Grant is available to people receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Working Families' Tax Credit, or Disabled Person's Tax Credit. It is worth up to three times as much as the Maternity Payment it replaced and provides more help to those families in most need.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Employment Zones are one of a range of initiatives we have introduced to help people move into work. The 15 Employment Zones are performing well and have already helped over 14,500 people into work. We are currently evaluating the Zones before deciding how to take the initiative further.
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